Bus union official: CTA cuts will be 'horrific'

File photo: CTA bus

February 7, 2010 12:39:49 PM PST
Massive CTA service cuts are set to go into effect Sunday after last-minute talks to avoid the reductions failed Friday night.The CTA says the cuts must be made to shore up a $95 million budget shortfall.

Click here to see the complete list of service cuts

Saturday was a day of preparing workers and riders for the changes, and Monday morning's commute will be the first big test of the cutbacks. That's when the full impact of a nearly 20-percent reduction in bus service will be felt.

Train service will also be cut, and 1,100 workers laid off.

The CTA is also closing its oldest bus garage facility.

"I'm not mad. I'm going to stay professional," driver Earl Williams said.

Saturday was the last day on the job for Williams, a five-year CTA bus driver who is one of the 1,100 workers being laid off in the agency's latest round of service cuts.

An emotional Tina Tharrington is another worker, who worries about how she and her co-workers will make ends meet.

"My heart goes out to them," Tharrington said.

With a $95.6 million deficit for 2010, CTA Pres. Richard Rodriguez -- who says he took a salary reduction -- says that without more concessions by the agency's unions, there is no choice but to let workers go and scale back operations.

"We're asking them to considering doing something up to-- if they could, even half, or whatever amount they choose. Any dollar that they could give us in savings would potentially help us," said Rodriguez.

The union representing CTA bus operators says they've already made concessions and recently proposed $80 million in givebacks through furlough days and deferments of pay raises in 2011 and 2012.

There has been no agreement, even after both sides met with Mayor Daley.

"It's gonna be horrific. I really feel for the public. It's a shame that they're gonna be put through this, in the cold. I mean, when a bus does come, it's gonna be full," said Carlos Acevedo, assistant Local 241 business manager.

"You can't increase fares. You can't increase taxes. So, we're asking them, their members, to work this out," Daley said.

Beginning Sunday, service will be less frequent on 119 buses routes and on seven of the CTA's eight rail lines.

Hours of operations on 41 bus routes will start later in the morning or end earlier at night or both.

Nine express bus routes also will be eliminated.

"I think it's mismanaged. So, it makes me angry," CTA rider Linda Higgins said.

"I think it's unfortunate that they're cutting service, but if that's what they have to do to keep operating, it's better that than hiking fares," CTA rider Elizabeth Lee said.

"It's been a doomsday every six months, it seems like. So, in one sense, at least something's happening, and maybe this'll end it. But it seems like it'll just be something else in six months," said Thor Martin, also a CTA rider.

The CTA also is closing its102-year-old Archer bus garage. The transit agency says it will redistribute equipment and personnel to its seven remaining garages and retire old buses.

In the meantime, already frustrated riders are thinking of other ways to get around.

"Summer's coming. Get ready to start walking. Get in shape. Get yourself a bike. You'll be all good," rider Frank Gomez told ABC7 Chicago.

Both the transit agency and the unions said Saturday they were still working to try to reach an agreement. If that does happen, the agency says it would probably be able to restore services that were cut within seven to 10 days.